GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- It's a problem many adults don't talk about but tens of thousands of Kent County residents over the age of 18 are functionally illiterate.
Tatum Rucker, public relations and development coordinator for the Literacy Center of West Michigan says 1 in 8 Kent County adults are functionally illiterate.
"Which means they may be able to read some things, like stop signs. They may be able to get around, but as far as reading at a functional level they are unable to," said Rucker. "That poses many challenges and obstacles in their every day lives."
Some of those challenges include reading things like e-mails, dinner recipes and the morning newspaper - abilities many people don't think twice about on a day-to-day basis.
During the month of March, which is National Reading Month, The Literacy Center of West Michigan will make an effort to highlight the literacy problems existing in the community and continue to work on ways of addressing them. Each year, the organization helps hundreds of adults with reading, comprehension, and language skills.
"Many people who come through our doors have actually graduated high school, but still can't read at a functional level. Some people may think, 'oh they just dropped out of high school or just made bad choices in life' but that is not always the case. Sometimes they have a learning disability that has never been addressed properly," said Rucker.
She says more than "30% of our adult learners have completed some high school." Despite that fact, 100% of the center's adult learners read below the 9th grade level when they begin. Intermediate level books, 4th through 6th grade level, are a challenge or they cannot read them at all. Examples of such books include: Peter Pan, Charlotte's Web, Tuck Everlasting, Roll of Thunder and Hear My Cry.
The good news is it is never to late to learn to read.
The Literacy Center of West Michigan offers several programs including one on one tutoring for any Kent County resident needing help, including English language learners.
"We match an adult learner with a volunteer tutor and they meet one-on-one to help the learning improve his or her reading skills, english skills and writing skills as well," said Rucker. "We have on average about 100 adults on a waiting list for a tutor."
She says the organization has more than 300 tutors, but still need more.
"We are having a volunteer tutor orientation here at the literacy center. People can come and learn about what we are doing," she said.
The volunteer tutor orientations are March 5 & 11, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at the Literacy Center of West Michigan located at 1120 Monroe NW, Suite 240 in Grand Rapids.
There will also be a neighborhood literacy forum on March 19, 3:00-4:00 p.m., Inner City Christian Federation, 920 Cherry St. SE.